What to do with Thanksgiving leftovers


We have all learned more than we thought about how to celebrate the holidays in uncertain times. Over the past year, many of us have prepared smaller Thanksgiving treats and celebrated by Zoom. This year, with the proper precautions, we might see more actual gatherings and plates full of most, if not all, toppings.

The good news: maybe more leftovers for everyone.

The less good news: the prices of turkeys and other foods are higher than in previous years. So we want to make smart use of every bite.

Turkeys will generally be bigger this year too due to labor shortages and delays at processing plants, Jay Jandrain, president and CEO of Butterball, told the AP.

So put these leftovers to work:


There are many ways to use this leftover turkey. Think soups, tetrazzini, pies (recipe below) and, of course, sandwiches. Anywhere you would use leftovers or cooked chicken, this is good game (pun intended slightly intentional) for leftover turkey. Swap it into your favorite pasta dish or salad. Grate it and add it to lasagna instead of ground meat. Use it in quesadillas, enchiladas or quiches. Add ground turkey to chili or make turkey mince.

And don’t forget to save the carcass and the pieces to make turkey broth.


Sure, you want to layer it on top of a turkey sandwich, but it’s also a great pairing for roast chicken the following week. (Cranberry sauce will usually keep for a few weeks in the refrigerator).

Pour some into a blender for a fruit smoothie after Thanksgiving. Puree it and mix it into a cocktail, such as a cranberry orange shrub. Serve it with meatballs, possibly sweet and sour.


Leftover sauce can be mixed into soup or stew for added depth of flavor. Drizzle it over fries or roasted potatoes with melted cheese for a makeshift poutine. Add it to a sauce when making a turkey pie or casserole after the holidays.

Note that leftover sauce can be frozen in an airtight container for up to three months. Spread it on the cookies. Incorporate it into your chicken and meatballs. Pour some on slices of meatloaf.


Roasted vegetables like butternut squash, sweet potatoes, turnips or Brussels sprouts are a gold mine of dishes waiting to happen. Puree them and turn them into a soup with the addition of a little broth and maybe a little cream, maybe some of those extra fresh herbs you have around. If you use a smaller amount of broth, you can mash vegetables instead of soup.

Add vegetables as is to pasta, soups and stews. Reheat them but add a sauce, such as a creamy sour cream sauce or olive tapenade vinaigrette. Chop them up and include them in frittatas.


Leftover mashed potatoes are begging to be used as a filling for shepherd’s pie or cottage pie (shake things up using mashed sweet potatoes!). Use them as a springboard for the moussaka. Make turkey croquettes and mashed potatoes. Flatten mounds in a hot pan with a little butter and make mashed potato pancakes.

Try the same with the leftover stuffing.

If you have a waffle iron, you can turn leftover mashed potatoes and stuffing into crispy, salty patties. This or an indoor grill is also a great way to “panini” those leftover sandwiches. Or fill the portobello mushroom caps with stuffing, sprinkle them with a little cheese and roast them until hot and cooked through.


Leftover bread, even if it has become a bit stale, can be used for croutons, breadcrumbs, bruschetta, bread pudding, or French toast. If you are using it for sandwiches, consider toasting the slices to bring out their best flavor and texture. Make sure all the seasonings on the bread match its new use.


Additional pumpkin boxes? Use it to make pancakes, pumpkin bread or muffins, pumpkin cream cheese brownies, or pumpkin gingerbread.

An example recipe for leftovers:


For 6 persons

1 sheet (half of a 17.3-ounce package) frozen puff pastry, thawed in the refrigerator

¼ cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

1 cup coarsely chopped fresh mushrooms

½ cup chopped onion

½ cup chopped carrots

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

2 cups turkey or chicken broth

½ cup heavy cream, half and half or whole milk

3 cups grated cooked chicken or turkey

½ cup of corn (fresh, canned or frozen; does not need to be thawed)

1 cup peas (fresh, canned or frozen; they don’t need to be thawed)

Preheat the oven to 425 ° F. In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the mushrooms, onion and carrots and cook for 7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms have released their liquid and this liquid has evaporated. The vegetables should just start to brown.

Stir in the flour, salt and pepper and continue stirring until the vegetables are coated in the flour and everything is golden brown. Gradually add broth and cream, stirring frequently, until thickened and bubbly, about 5 minutes.

Add the turkey, corn and peas and toss to combine. Fill a 9-inch pie pan with the pot pie mixture.

Spread the puff pastry lightly on a lightly floured surface. If you have a small cookie cutter, you can cut 4-6 shapes in the crust then use a cream or milk brush to stick the shapes to the top of the crust for decoration (I used a small cookie cutter -part in the form of a leaf).

Place the puff pastry on the filling and cut off the wedges if they hang below the bottom of the pan. If you haven’t cut any shapes into the crust, use a sharp knife to make several slits in the crust so that the steam can escape.

Bake for 20 to 30 minutes until the crust is golden and everything is bubbling. Let the pie sit for about 10 minutes before slicing and serving, or you can serve it with a large serving spoon instead. (The pie won’t be cut well, that’s part of the charm.)

Turkey sandwich

Turkey pie

Turkey tetrazzini

This image shows turkey tetrazzini, an option for Thanksgiving leftovers.

Katie Workman writes regularly on food for The Associated Press. She has written two cookbooks focusing on family cooking, “Diner Resolved! And “The Mom 100 Cookbook”. She blogs at http://www.themom100.com/about-katie-workman. She can be reached at [email protected]


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